A few freckles sprayed across the bridge of a toddler’s nose are widely considered adorable. But when the number of freckles on the face of someone older appears to rival the number of grains of sand in the ocean, the beholder will likely argue against their beauty.
And yet, Portland-based photographer Fritz Liedtke‘s Astra Velum series (that we first saw on Feature Shoot) gives freckles their close-up in a way that captures their ethereal-like quality — and their beauty. He celebrates the dots on the faces of women, some of whom have spent their lives trying to scrub off the markings.
One woman in the series told Liedtke that when she was a little girl, her grandmother asked her to go wash up. “She went to the bathroom and did so, but grandma wasn’t satisfied,” he said. “‘Your face isn’t clean! Go scrub it some more!’ The young girl was distraught, for all that was left on her skin were her freckles, and no amount of scrubbing would make them go away.”
“In a world that flaunts flawlessness as the ideal, can we find real beauty in the blemishes?” Liedtke asks. He said that on more than one occasion, while photographing the series, he was thanked by his subjects “for making something beautiful out of what they often viewed as an imperfection.”
At its essence, Astra Velum “explores the beauty of flawed human skin, with its freckles and scars, overlaid upon us like a thin veil of stars,” Liedtke says. The images are hand-printed using the photogravure technique, which brings the texture to the forefront in a tremendous fashion.
Take a look:
Astra Velum 1 of 16
Photos by Fritz Liedtke
Alisha 2 of 16
Astra Velum is latin for "veil of stars."
Asia 3 of 16
Liedtke tells Babble he thinks of freckles like "constellations on the skin."
Melia 4 of 16
"At its essence, Astra Velum explores the beauty of flawed human skin, with its freckles and scars, overlaid upon us like a thin veil of stars," he tells Babble.
Marley 5 of 16
Liedtke has "lots of spots" all over him, but no freckles.
"They're just a part of who I am," he says.
Erica 6 of 16
When he was looking for subjects for his series, Liedtke had a much harder time finding men with freckles than women.
Ella 7 of 16
According to Liedtke, the Astra Velum project started in San Francisco.
"I was photographing there several years ago, and one evening was at a pub with colleagues and friends. One of the guys brought his girlfriend, covered in the thickest freckles I'd ever seen. I was intrigued, and asked if I might take her portrait," he said.
Alexandra 8 of 16
The woman hesitated, but finally said yes, Liedtke said.
"So I photographed her on the sidewalk by the light of the neon signs, and it turned out to be my favorite portrait of that entire year."
Natalie 9 of 16
"Back in Portland, I slowly began seeking out and photographing freckled women and men. As I did so, some of them told me stories of feeling ashamed of their freckles, as if they were an imperfection, something to hide or erase."
Celine 10 of 16
"This intrigued me," Liedtke said, "and became the focus of the series: creating something beautiful out of something people viewed as a flaw."
York 11 of 16
Liedtke found his subjects for the series in a variety of ways: people he knew, people he met at parks or parties, and posts on Craigslist.
Tiah 12 of 16
"There are interesting people all around us," Liedtke tells Babble. "One of the pleasures of photography is that I get to capture some of these intriguing people and share my vision with others."
Fox 13 of 16
As for the unusual titles of some of his subjects: "Most of the titles are the names of the women pictured (on occasion a last name)," Liedtke said, "and one or two I named after something in the picture (such as Fox, named for the amazing fur the woman is wearing)."
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According to MedicineNet.com, "the word freckle comes from the Middle English freken, which, in turn, came from the Old Norse freknur, meaning 'freckled.'"
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"Beauty is only skin deep. But ah! me; freckles go to the bone."
— Mark Twain
Kendra 16 of 16
For more in the Astra Velum series, visit Fritz Liedtke's website.
All photos used with permission from Fritz Liedtke
More from Meredith on Babble:
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